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Zenawi out on his own in Africa 0

An announcement by Ethiopia and France yesterday caused consternation among the African countries. Is someone trying to break their ranks to get the continent to sign on to a poor deal, they are asking themselves? Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is not a happy man. His head slumped in his hands, the triumphs of Ethiopian agriculture, presented at a side event of the COP, seem to escape him completely.

Twenty-four hours of confusion stalled talks in the Africa Group following Zenawi’s joint appeal for a climate deal with French president Sarkozy yesterday. “Ethiopia representing Africa” had agreed on a maximum two degree temperature rise and called on the parties to make a $10 billion dollar start-up fund available, raved the French.

In what appeared to be an orchestrated move, US president Obama congratulated the Ethiopians on their “leadership”.

But Ethiopia didn’t represent Africa’s position at all. “This was not the result of consultation,” G77/China-chair Lumumba Di-Aping told TerraViva.

“It has seriously divided the Africa Group, we don’t even know what’s going on,” conceded Ugandan chief negotiator and minister of water and environment, Maria Mutagamba, who foresees Africa might have to walk out of the talks if no long-term funding is put on the table.

“I am not sure whether good consultations took place beforehand,” Namibian Prime Minister Nahas Angula told IPS. “I do think though that Zenawi was trying to emphasise the resources Africa needs in the context of adapting to climate change.”

Many African countries reject the two degree measure, because it would effectively mean a temperature rise of 3.7 degrees on the continent. The $10 billion quick start-up fund is generally regarded as an insult from rich nations that have yet to pledge any long-term funding.

The position of the Africa group, TerraViva learnt, is to demand 1.5 percent of the GDP of the industrialised nations, which works out to $600 billion annually for 2013 to 2017. LDCs want 70 percent of that and $2 billion from any quick start-up money.

But the Ethiopian move has complicated things. “It was extremely bad timing. There is utter confusion now and we have lost control of the process,” the chair of the Lowest Developed Countries (LDCs) bloc, Lesotho’s Bruno Sekoli, told TerraViva.

“The substance of the statement is not the problem. In the end it’s not rocket science for the world to agree here, but what really has been hampering the negotiations since Bangkok is the deep spirit of mistrust, the fear that poor countries will strike secret deals with powerful countries. The French intervention has once again lent credit to this suspicion,” Sekoli added.

And what had Zenawi to say? Did he regret his premature announcement?

“What I regret is the way my comments were distorted and the stir that resulted,” he told TerraViva. “I do not think trust has been lost in the Africa Group though, we are still united.”

He vehemently denied being pressured into the announcement by the US and France. “Absolutely not, I was trying to get the focus back on Africa. Many developed countries ignore us, they shouldn’t do that.”

IPS’ reporter Nasseem Ackburally interviewed also one of those most disappointed by Zenawi’s action, Mithika Mwenda, from the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance, who said “This is going to create dissent, and then those who are bent on dividing Africa will succeed.”

Listen the full interview with Mithika Mwenda

By Servaas van den Bosch and Nasseem AckburallyIPS/Terraviva

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